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Huguenot Museum, Franschhoek



The Huguenots were followers of the Protestant Church rather than the dominant and official French Catholic Church during the 16th to 18th century. Conflict between the Protestants and Catholics led to a number of religious wars up until 1598 when the Edict of Nantes [1] granted the Huguenots the same rights as Catholic citizens. In October 1685 King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes[2], sparking fears of renewed violence. Many Huguenots decided to leave France at that stage and look for a better life elsewhere.

Huguenots in the Cape

Signatures of some of the early Huguenots, including that of Paul Roux[1]

Huguenots started arriving at the Cape from as early as 1687, but the largest number arrived between 1688 and 1689 with assistance from the government of the Netherlands and the VOC. Initially they settled on the western side of the Groot Drakenstein mountain in an area known as Drakenstein, but later were granted land to farm in Oliphantshoek to the east of the Groot Drakenstein mountain.

The Franchhoek Valley

This valley was originally called Oliphantshoek after the large number of elephants that lived here, but later became commonly known as Franschhoek due to the majority of the inhabitants being French speaking. In 1805 the name Franschhoek became the official name for the area.[2]

Huguenot Monument

Huguenot Monument, Franschhoek
Huguenot Monument, Franschhoek

The monument was build in 1945 and inaugurated on 17 April 1948. It is located in the town of Franschhoek, where most of the Huguenots settled after their arrival from Europe.

It consists of three arches, symbolizing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, capped by a sphere (the sun of righteousness) and a cross (the Christian faith). At the base of the monument is a statue of a female on a globe of the world, with a bible in one hand and a broken chain in the other, to symbolizes the religious freedom that the Huguenots where searching for.

Huguenot Memorial (Johannesburg Botanical Gardens)

Huguenot Memorial at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens

At the Johannesburg botanical Gardens, just above the Rose Garden there is a memorial commemorating the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the Huguenots in South Africa.

The term Huguenot

There are varied accounts for the origin of the name Huguenot.

The simplest explanation normally given is that it is a French corruption of the German word Eidgenosse, meaning a Confederate:

...a combination of a Flemish and a German word. In the Flemish corner of France, Bible students who gathered in each other's houses to study secretly were called Huis Genooten ('housemates') while on the Swiss and German borders they were termed Eid Genossen, or 'oath fellows', that is, persons bound to each other by an oath. Gallicized into 'Huguenot', often used deprecatingly, the word became, during two and a half centuries of terror and triumph, a badge of enduring honor and courage.

The Days of the Upright, A History of the Huguenots - O.I.A. Roche

The Cape Monthly (February, 1877) No. 82 Vol. XIV, page:126 at The Internet Archive however, has the following article:

The origin of the name is curious; it is not from the German Eidegenossen as has been supposed. Reguier de la Plancha accounts for it as follows: — "The name huguenand was given to those of the religion during the affair of Amboyse, and they were to retail it ever since. I'll say a word about it to settle the doubts of those who have strayed in seeking its origin. The superstition of our ancestors, to within twenty or thirty years thereabouts, was such that in almost all the towns in the kingdom they had a notion that certain spirits underwent their Purgatory in this world after death, and that they went about the town during the night, striking and outraging many people whom they found in the streets. But the light of the Gospel has made the vanish, and teaches us that these spirits were street-strollers and ruffians. At Paris the spirit was called le moine bourré; at Orleans, le mulet odet; at Blois le loup garon; at Tours, le Roy Huguet; and so on in other places. Now, it happens that those whom they called Lutherans were at that time so narrowly watched during the day that they were forced to wait till night to assemble, for the purpose of praying to God, for preaching and receiving the Holy Sacrament; so that although they d'd frighten nor hurt anybody, the priests, through mockery, made them the successors of those spirits which roam the night; and thus that name being quite common in the mouth of the populace, to designate the evangelical huguenands in the country of Tourraine and Amboyse, it became in vogue after that enterprise."

—Quoted by The Cape Monthly from De l'Estat de France 1560, by Reguier de la Plancha

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